“Manmohan Singh had opposed FDI in retail in 2002”

Flaying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent remarks that those who opposed FDI in retail were “ignorant” of global realities, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M. Venkaiah Naidu on Sunday said it was not the Opposition but the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that were ignorant and, at times, blind to the situation in India.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Naidu said if allowing FDI, as was being claimed, was so important now, given the precarious state of the economy, one had to ask what the Congress and the UPA were doing for the last eight and a half years on the economic front.

“They were suffering from policy paralysis and realised the need for allowing FDI in retail only after the western countries pressured them,” he said, citing Wal-Mart’s disclosures to the U.S. Senate on lobbying expenses as an affirmation of the BJP’s suspicions (on external influence).

Mr. Naidu referred to several instances of the UPA constituents speaking in different voices about the FDI. If the Congress had branded FDI in retail an anti-national move in the past, Dr. Singh himself in 2002 opposed “this kind of reforms, which rather than creating employment, would destroy employment,” while senior Congress leader Priyaranjan Dasmunsi wanted the government to protect retail traders from the threat of FDI, he said.

Mr. Naidu also said the Congress-led government in Kerala opposed FDI and the Nationalist Congress Party, a UPA coalition partner, deferred the decision in Maharashtra until after consultation, while another ally — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam — had supported the Bharat bandh against FDI and even termed it “Foreign Direct Invasion” on the floor of Parliament, he said.

The BJP will launch a nationwide campaign on the FDI issue after the conclusion of the current session of Parliament on December 20, he said.

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